.. ut if just a one person took a step a day, the effect would not be as great. It is important for the consumers to take the first step in showing their concern. If consumers never voice this concern to the companies, they (the companies) continue to think that they are getting away with using this cheap labor. Here are some ideas on how consumers can easily get involved on a daily basis to ensure they are showing support.
Holstein makes consumers aware that the process of getting involved can be a simple one, ” There is no way to pick up a product and instantly know how it was made. But there are very practical things you can do over a period of time to give yourself greater confidence about what you buy.” ( par. 1) One of the simplest things consumers can do is to check where the articles are made. Consumers can do this by looking at the label on the merchandise. If they see that it was made in a third world country that regularly uses sweatshops such as: China, Burma, Haiti etc., the possibility is greater that the merchandise was made in a sweatshop.
If the consumer does not feel comfortable going by the label alone, they can ask a store manager. Store managers are usually friendly and willing to share any information that they know about their products with the consumer. However, this could both be an advantage or a disadvantage. The store manager may know less than you do about the situation or could have even been instructed not to talk about such an issue with customers. The opposite could be true as well. The store manager could have been trained with the knowledge of all the companys labor laws and issues and would be eager to share this learned knowledge.
It is worth the chance to try either way. Once a consumer has found where the product was made, they should be cautious of certain countries. Some of the tactics taken are consumer boycotts. This is the tactic that the Mueckler 6 opponents of the regime in Burma employed. Boycotting is not always the best action to take, as explained by a Reebok executive: ” If Americans decided that they werent going to buy soccer balls made in Pakistan, a million people would be out of jobs tomorrow” (par.
3). Simply, boycotting is not helpful, all this does is make more people lose their job. This is not a permanent solution. A more effective way to show concern is to ask questions about the countries of origin. Learn more about the products that consumers buy.
If the consumer sees a made in the U.S.A label, they should not assume it is safe. Many products made in the United States are also made under less then ideal situations. Consulting a monthly State Labor Review shows that the United States is still trying to work against this. “Child labor continues to be an issue of great interest at both the Federal and State level. A mix of legislation was enacted this year, with laws passed both to strengthen and to relax child labor regulation.[ in the U.S.]” ( Nelson, par. 7).
The United States itself is still having problems weeding out these companies who are producing merchandise in such conditions. The problem of sweatshops is also evident in the U.S. Consumers should use the resources given to them. One extremely useful resource is the U.S. Department of Labors website [http://www.dol.gov/dol/esa/public/nosweat/trands. htm]. Here they can find a list of retailers that are using enlightened sourcing practices. They can also contact the consumer group that they use most regularly and persuade them to include workplace conditions in their report. By doing this the U.S. Department of Labor is making a lot of consumers more aware of a situation of sweatshops, most of these consumers they reach are completely ignorant of the situation.
This could greatly influence the way people shop. After consumers take these steps, the companies will see the effect. Hopefully the effect will be great enough that the company will change their labor practices. By making the companies change their labor practices, the consumer has made a difference. Without the consumer and the aid of different National Labor Committees, the companies could not be persuaded to change their ways.
Mueckler 7 Consumers children can also get involved. Children have a voice and when they are informed of such activities as child labor and sweatshops they can be useful tools. Maria Sweeney saw this potential in her fourth grade class. Every year she has her students choose a topic of social significance for an end of the year play. One year her students chose global sweatshops and chose the Nike and Disney companies to be their focus (par.
2). The children were cautious with choosing these companies. Nike was at the top of the list, “Most kids think they cant live without Nike,” one student observed. The others agreed that the company holds great sway over young people. Several wondered if we could even compete with its power: ” The whole point of the play would be to get them to join the boycott,” one student cautioned,” but most kids would never stop wearing Nike stuff. It wouldnt be cool at all to be against Nike” ( par.
3). The students agreed that kids have the right to know of the awful conditions. These children knew that they could make a difference if they informed their peers of the situations that they have become aware of. The students wanted to be able to reach all of their intended audience. This is why they choose Disney as the second company, hoping to reach the younger audience.
The students knew this was important news to get out. Parents of these children showed some concern in their children not hearing both sides of this issue, so their teacher made the effort to stress the difference between the goals behind the companies public relations department versus the human rights groups. The public relations departments goal being to promote a positive public image and thereby enhance earnings, their motive here being profit. This would somehow explain to the students why the public relations departments would publicly deny any involvement with child labor or sweatshops. The human rights groups however are motivated by morality and justice. This way the children knew the differences between both sides and could make their own opinions.
(par. 15) Mueckler 8 Once the childrens play was put together, the school refused to let them perform it in front of the rest of the school as originally planned. The children recognized this as censorship. They were being forced to only perform it in front of an audience consisting of their parents. However, a reporter heard of the childrens misfortune and got response from the community.
By extreme luck the students were asked to perform their play on Broadway (par. 19-20). Consumers of all ages can make a difference if they are given the chance. Everyone can bring their own personal experiences and opinions to get involved. This shows how anyone can make a difference. The childrens ideas would now be heard by a larger audience then ever expected.
Their feelings are being heard by a more diverse group of people. This means that they may help even more people realize the truth to this awful situation in these poor third world countries, who rely on U.S. companies to set up sweatshops so they can earn a meager living. In conclusion, Moberg shows us that consumers can make a difference in the fight against sweatshops, ” Consumer power propels the drive against sweatshops today, but most organizers think that this alone will produce only limited advances.” (par. 8) Consumers must aid organizations in their fight against International sweatshops by getting involved, being aware, and being not ignorant. Without the consumers the organizations fight is pointless.
They are fighting for what most consumers are ignorant about. It is important to get the information out to everyone about the poor conditions, our everyday products are being created in. Everyday more and more consumers are being made aware, although they do not know how to help. That is where the organizations get involved. They provide the information on how individual consumers can make a difference. Everyone is important in this cause.
The information is out there, it just needs to be accessed. Bibliography Moberg, David. Bringing Down Niketown. The Nation. v268 no21 p15-16.
7 June 1999. National Labor Committee.Campaign For Labor Rights. Disney Alert #2. 11 June, 1997. 22 March 2000.
National Labor Committee. Are Human Rights Compaigns Necessary? 28 July, 1997. 22 March 2000 Nelson, Richard R. State labor legistration enacted in 1998. Monthly Labor Review.
v122 no1 p3-15 January 1999. Schweizer, Peter and Rochelle. Disney the Mouse Betrayed. Washington DC: Regnery Publishing: 1998. Sweeney, Maria. Sweating the Small Stuff: Mickey, Michael, and Global Sweatshop.
Radical Teacher. no 55 p11-14 1999.